Sustainability in higher education refers to both a sustainable business model and a sustainable carbon footprint. Traditional higher education institutions are facing a threat from both sides of this equation. Brick-and-mortar institutions need to expedite their move to a more sustainable, planet-friendly business model.
Tackling the physical part of this is hard, potentially expensive, and takes time. There is, however, a quicker win – adjusting the proportion of on-campus vs hybrid. There is increasingly an acceptance that hybrid is favoured by a significant part of the potential student market and this represents a marvelous opportunity for institutions facing pressure to make changes fast.
Financially it is faster to implement while still maintaining the brand equity of the institution, it broadens the accessibility for non-traditional students, and reduces the need for carbon-intensive brick-and-mortar physical spaces. It buys the time needed to retrofit and adapt while ensuring the business model is able to keep up with global requirements.
In addition to the more extensive impact changes needed, there are a lot of smaller initiatives that institutions are currently implementing that will collectively start the move to sustainability. For example, at the Global Conference in Sustainability in Higher Education, it is indeed inspiring to hear about initiatives such as reduction in waste, baking in sustainable thinking to the existing courses, and heightened awareness of the need to partner and join forces with others who are working in similary directions.
It’s time to stop nibbling around the edges and dive into radical transformation.